Working with a Co-Teacher
Some schools have a co-teach model for certain classes. In this model, two certified teachers are in the room at the same time. The co-taught class generally is made up of a larger percentage of students with disabilities than is normally allowed for one teacher. The regular teacher is in charge of the curriculum for the course. The special education teacher is in charge of all modifications and accommodations according to the IEPs.
Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to this type of situation. On the positive side, regular teachers get extra help in their classroom for students with disabilities. The two teachers can work together to help reach all students in the classroom, a feat that is sometimes impossible for a teacher working by herself.
On the other hand, the benefits of having co-teachers are only achieved if the two teachers have a good working relationship. Unfortunately, two teachers may have conflicts over teaching philosophy and other issues.
Further, even though most co-teachers in the classroom will make an effort to keep the identity of students with disabilities confidential, it is impossible for students not to realize who is and who is not being served by the co-teacher. This can best be combated by having the teacher help all students in specific ways to minimize singling out a certain student or group.
Communication and Cooperation
Because most of the issues between co-teachers stem from personality conflicts and lack of communication, it is imperative that co-teachers carry on open communication. If this is not the case, major problems are bound to occur.
As the regular education teacher, do not assume that the co-teacher is a threat or wants to take over your class. Further, never treat the co-teacher as if she were an aide. Remember, she holds a teaching degree, too. Make sure that you share your expectations concerning your students' education with the co-teacher.
In 1992, a jury in West Virginia awarded monetary damages to the parents of a special education student for the failure of teachers and a school to follow the IEP. This case, Doe vs. Withers, is important because the teachers who refused to implement the IEP were fined $10,000 each.
If you ever have any questions or concerns, do not be afraid to speak up. The co-teacher will probably make some accommodations that you might not agree with, but remember that both of you are constrained by the IEP.
It's possible that you and your co-teacher won't get along. However, as professional educators, you must realize that you both want the same thing: a quality education for your students. You have to deal with each other and get along for the sake of your class.